OxyContin Darren McCollester:Getty Images

The Opiate of the Bosses

In 2007, several executives of the parent company of Purdue Pharma, which markets the popular opioid OxyContin, pleaded guilty to misleading doctors, regulators, and patients about the risk of addiction associated with the drug. In the decade since, opioid distribution has expanded substantially, driving a rapid increase in addiction and death rates.

LONDON – Business ethics are again making headlines. This time, the focus is on the rapidly escalating opioid crisis that is destroying lives across the United States. While there is plenty of blame to go around, the largest share of the guilt belongs squarely on the shoulders of the major drug companies – Big Pharma.

The cynicism with which pharmaceutical firms have encouraged opioid drug use is appalling. Providing far too little analysis and oversight, they distribute opiates widely, alongside misinformation about how addictive the drugs truly are. Then they entice doctors with inducements and giveaways – including trips, toys, fishing hats, and, in one case, a music CD called “Get in the Swing with OxyContin” (one of the most popular opioids) – to prescribe them.

In 2007, several executives of the parent company of Purdue Pharma, which markets OxyContin, pleaded guilty to misleading doctors, regulators, and patients about the risk of addiction associated with the drug. The company was hit with some $600 million in fines and penalties.

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